An all-Carolinas national basketball final in the NCAA tournament could be only a week away.
Can you wrap your mind around it yet?
South Carolina earned a spot in its very first Final Four Sunday afternoon. North Carolina advanced to its 20th later the same day. And suddenly, the two Carolinas are one win apiece away from what would be one of the most extraordinary basketball matchups in the sport’s history.
That April 3 game – possible only if South Carolina pulls another upset against Gonzaga Saturday night and then North Carolina beats Oregon on the same Arizona court – would just about shut down the two Carolinas for one night.
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It would be vaguely apocalyptic and really fun.
Just think: Gamecocks vs. Tar Heels. Charleston vs. Asheville. Peaches vs. tobacco. Pat Conroy vs. Thomas Wolfe. Strom Thurmond vs. Jesse Helms. Refrigerator Perry vs. Michael Jordan.
More? Barbecue vs. barbecue. David Pearson vs. Richard Petty. Lee Dedmon vs. Kevin Joyce. The Confederate flag vs. HB2. Vanna White vs. Andy Griffith. Darius Rucker vs. James Taylor.
Speaking of Rucker, the lead singer of the Hootie & the Blowfish anthem “Let Her Cry,” was crying himself in the stands in the waning seconds of South Carolina clinching its first-ever Final Four berth.
Like many Gamecocks fans, Rucker was never sure he would see this day. But seventh-seeded South Carolina has become this tournament’s “Sin-derella” story, led by all-everything senior guard Sindarius Thornwell of Lancaster, S.C.
Thornwell and UNC’s unlikely last-shot hero, Luke Maye, once played on a Charlotte-based travel team together. That is one of the many connections between the two border states.
The idea of a Duke-North Carolina national final occurred to many people before the 2017 NCAA men’s basketball tournament ever began. The idea of a South Carolina-North Carolina final occurred to no one except maybe in a fever dream.
Yet here we are: South Carolina upset Duke, Baylor and Florida. North Carolina has survived two incredibly close calls vs. Arkansas and Kentucky. We are one crazy Saturday at the Final Four away from a two-state basketball Armageddon.
In my mind, and yours too, we’re all going to Carolina now.
Both of them.